Anderson joins Rox, and then things get weird
Colorado's new lefty fully embraces quirks, superstitions of day-to-day life
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- New Rockies left-hander Brett Anderson discusses obsessive-compulsive disorder the way many pitchers discuss their fastball. Whether the diagnosis comes from a doctor or the mirror doesn't matter. He is fine with having to drink out of a cup in a manner he calls "weird -- I've got to get my mouth just right."
Anderson, who says he has so many quirks that his new teammates don't even notice, believes he picked the right profession to fit in with co-workers. And in two weeks of doing far more watching than speaking, he says he anticipates feeling right at home with his new team.
"The other day I was watching [first baseman Justin] Morneau on deck, getting ready to hit, and in sheer number of quirks and stuff, he might have me beat -- everything was in taps of threes, all kinds of stuff related to his number ," Anderson said. "I was like, 'Uh-oh, another weirdo.' Most baseball players are weird, anyway, but there are levels. We're at the top I guess."
One possibility for why any strangeness might have slipped past the Rockies so far is that Anderson is also very quiet. But his teammates will not mind him being strange or silent if he lives up to his billing as a potential star. Anderson, 26, was the Athletics' Opening Day starter last season, but right ankle and foot injuries cost him time and made him a bullpen arm by season's end.
On Monday, Anderson will begin making an impression on the field when he starts against the Mariners in Peoria, Ariz. Anderson was 11-11 with a 4.06 ERA in 30 starts as an Athletics rookie in 2009, but he had elbow, forearm and knee issues in 2010 and underwent Tommy John surgery on his left elbow in 2011. His high strikeouts and low walks and his ability to keep the ball down caught the Rockies' interest.
"You watch him throw and say, 'Wow, that's a big league bullpen. This is a big league guy.'" Rockies pitching coach Jim Wright said. "I'm very impressed about how he goes about his business. You can't get a lot of words out of him, but he strikes me as a guy who's not concerned about the fanfare. He just wants to go out and pitch."
In and around winning over the Rockies' staff with his talent in bullpen sessions and no-nonsense approach to everything else, Anderson has had time to learn about his new team.
"I'm not shy, but I'm not very outgoing," Anderson said. "I sit back, not in the corner, but observe people, see who talks to who and things like that. Obviously, I spend more time with the starting pitchers, so developing a relationship with the position players is a little tougher. That'll come with time."
Had Anderson not been such a baseball talent -- he was a second-round pick of the D-backs' in 2006 -- he most likely would have worked with animals like his mother, Sandra, a veterinarian. Instead he took after dad, University of Houston pitching coach Frank Anderson, into the other family businesses -- baseball and figuring out the human mind.
"My dad's major was psychology, so I kind of like sitting back and observing people, kind of making my own judgments to myself, then getting to know people and seeing if I was right in what their personality is," said Anderson, whose quirks in Oakland included flipping the ball in his hand a certain number of times before each pitch, and requiring that the label of his lip balm face outward when he would leave his locker. "It's kind of fun, a little game with myself. But I don't think I'd want to go into a field like that -- too many weirdos out there, like me."
"If you sit back and watch people in baseball enough, there are so many little superstitions, which I know. I have quite a few of those, too. It's one of few places you can come and feel normal about your weirdness. Baseball players are creatures of habit and do weird things. It's like its own personal shrink when everybody's involved."
Last year, Anderson stepped beyond observation and into mentorship.
The A's had a veteran in Bartolo Colon, but Anderson said Colon was "the quietest individual I've ever been around." Anderson answered the questions of younger pitchers Jarrod Parker and Sonny Gray, and they turned out fine.
The Rockies acquired Anderson for left-hander Drew Pomeranz and Minor League righty Chris Jensen. With solid vets Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin on the staff, Anderson can concentrate on letting his results define him.
"When I'm healthy, I think I'm one of the best pitchers in the game, and I want to go out there and prove that, not only to people, but myself," Anderson said. "You can only hear so many publications say, 'His stuff is comparable to this,' or, 'He should be …' I want to throw all that out the window. Go out there and pitch, and the results will take care of themselves."
And if his teammates notice a superstition or two, or 50, that's fine, too.
"Most people that are pretty good have some kind of quirk or intricacy or OCD," Anderson said. "I played with the king, Nomar Garciaparra. He made me feel about as normal as I could possibly feel with his toe-tapping going up the stairs and all kinds of stuff. I was like, 'Oh, this is awesome.'
"Hopefully I can keep up my routine of doing something different every day so I don't showcase my weirdness on the National League side. The National League side would be like, 'That guy is pretty boring.'"